Just what does it take to compete in an uninterrupted 24-hour race in one of the most competitive classes on the grid with two cars? To show us, 24H SERIES stalwart Porsche Lorient Racing opened its garage doors to us in Barcelona.
In part two, adrenaline is somehow keeping fatigue at bay, driver strategy is discussed, and the team suffers another heavy accident. Be sure to check out part one first!
Sunday, 1st September – 7am (19 hours in)
- 911 – 19th overall, 4th in-class
- 912 – 11th overall, 1st in-class
It’s a very different Porsche Lorient Racing pit box we peek into early the next morning. The 911 and 912 continue to circulate on their respective TV monitors as Hi-Vis-clad crew members dose in chairs or watch the timing screen through increasingly heavy eyelids. The aroma of pasta has disappeared, replaced with coffee and bacon sandwiches. Half-empty Coke cans and a few small water bottles are on a plastic table top nearby, on which sits a now half-empty bowl of fruit. Even our trio on the pit perch seem a little more relaxed, shoulders less hunched than they were 14 hours earlier. Aude-Marie Milton, watching the footage, gets up from her place at the laptop and sidles over.
It’s a more relaxed communications manager greeting us this morning, albeit one that still hasn’t been to sleep. There’s a Porsche jacket draped around her shoulders to keep out the morning chill, and the headset is now resting on her collarbones. She’s hardly off the clock though: as we chat, a conversation breaks out in French with another crew member, a pointed finger showing that the team banner above pit box 27 has lost one of its zipties. Yes, she’s tired, but Aude-Marie still has a job to do.
“It was a good night, everything went well,” she continues. “I just kept on moving, making sure the crew was fed, cleaned up, and worked on my report for the race. The strategy changed completely for both cars during the night” – the 911 crew started double stinting while the sister #912 remains on single 90-minute runs – “so it was important to keep an eye on that. It doesn’t leave you much time to rest!”
We’re inside the final five hours and during the night, the 912 has managed to regain the lead thanks to some slick pit work, on-track contact for both Team Webheads and MRS GT-Racing, and clean stints for the drivers. One would hardly blame them for wanting a lie-in given their work during the night: this particular writer, working on two hours of sleep and clasping a Styrofoam coffee mug like it’s the holy grail, certainly would. Turns out gentlemen drivers are made of stronger stuff.
“They are competitors.” Another smile. “They are AM drivers but they are here to race, and to win.
“Some of the drivers want to be awake an hour before their stint, because then they have time to watch all the timing. Others, especially during the night, prefer to be woken up just before their stint. For example, Jean-Francois and Pascal [Gibon]” – as if to emphasise this point, Pascal, who’s in one of the nearby folding chairs, waves ‘good morning’– “are always here one hour before they go in the car. Always. You never know what could happen. And it’s a long stint. We want to make sure our driver is fresh before a 1h 45m stint.”
"One would hardly blame them for wanting a lie-in given their work during the night. Turns out AM drivers are made of stronger stuff."
It’s not just the drivers though that are keen to do their best. As they have done throughout the season, students from Lycée Colbert de Lorient have been assisting the Porsche Lorient Racing’s chief mechanics at this year’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA.
“We have three professional mechanics, and all the rest are students from Lycée Colbert. We have six interns and are teaching them how to be race mechanics, but you can’t do that without throwing them in the deep end! They’re a good bunch, they know the car very well, they’re intelligent, they’re fast, and they’re learning all the time. It’s a really great program and we’re very happy to be involved with it.”
If continuing to motivate an increasingly fatigued pit crew and driver line-up isn’t enough, plus the pressure of one car battling for a class win and the other for a series championship, Aude-Marie is adding to her list of responsibilities this morning. Clearly the adrenaline is still flowing…
“Now we are starting to pack up. The quicker we get that done after the race, the earlier we can go to sleep!” Another smile. Nope, we’re not buying that either!
Sunday, 1st September – 1pm (25 hours in)
- 911 – 16th overall, 3rd in-class, and ‘991’ class 24H SERIES Europe champion
- 912 – 32nd overall, 5th in-class (DNF)
Given how the race started, a podium finish for the #911 Porsche could – nay, should – be something to celebrate for Porsche Lorient Racing. 3rd in-class is enough to successfully defend the 24H SERIES Europe ‘991’ title, and simultaneously secured Frédéric Ancel and Jean-François Demorge the 991-class Drivers’ trophy. A good weekend’s work…right?
Heading into the final four hours of the race, and not long after our previous chat (uh oh!), Lionel Amrouche makes a slight misjudgement and the 912 Porsche disappears nose first into the tyre wall at turn four. Lionel is uninjured and the 911-II Cup is recovered to the pits, but the car and body shell are both destroyed. The accident marks the end of both the 912’s race and Lionel’s own title aspirations.
“We are really satisfied with the work the team did, the mechanics and the drivers,” Aude-Marie explains, the headset gone for the first time this weekend. “They really did their best to keep on going for 23 hours(!) and did their best during the pits stops to stay focused. So yeah, we’re very happy with the work done on the 911. But it’s always hard to lose the lead.
“It’s heart-breaking for the 912 crew really. They did so well, adapted quickly, and truly deserved that win. If the car had been repairable, we would have fixed it, even with only four hours left to the flag. This is endurance and we are competitors at heart. But this is the strange thing about running two cars: for the 911, the accident put them back onto the podium.”
"Lionel is uninjured and the 911-II Cup is recovered to the pits, but the car and body shell are both destroyed."
As we talk, the banner above the garage is being snipped down, ready for the 1,100km journey to join the rest of the collection in Lanester. Crew members walk past wheeling packing crates or carrying boxes. The TV monitors and laptops have been disconnected and stowed, the roof of the gazebo sags as the poles are collapsed, and alongside its fallen sister, the 911 is being wheeled back into the pit box, ready to be prepped for the long drive home. As I peer through the emptying garage, I can see the pit perch. It’s empty.
“We had a small celebration under the podium but our weekend isn’t over. We need to clear the garage by 8pm tonight. There’s just no downtime!”
This may seem a silly question, given the bronze and European championship trophies sitting in celebratory fashion on a nearby packing crate, but I can’t help but ask anyway. It’s been an exhausting weekend, with few breaks, no sleep, and triumph mixed with heart-ache. Porsche Lorient Racing is no stranger to this kind of weekend, given their tenure in the 24H SERIES, but why do they continue to put themselves through it?
“The 24H SERIES is a hard championship because you’re always busy. We start at 8am, we finish at 1am, if we’re lucky, and you need to check everything if you want to finish. And even then, issues can still happen. So it’s tough, but when you have a car on the track, you have a lot of adrenaline. We’re all like that. It keeps us going! We want to be there for the car, the driver and the team. It’s why we keep coming back. We love endurance racing.”
There’s another smile from Aude-Marie Milton as she says this, one shared by the Porsche Lorient Racing team personnel around her.
“It’s hard, but we love it. And we have another title we want to win next year!”